Helping students cope : peer counselling in higher education
This study looks at the problems facing students in their University careers and considers how they may be helped and supported at this time. A University Nightline telephone befriending service (LUA-Linha da Universidade de Aveiro) was established in Portugal (where no such provision previously existed) in order to provide a research vehicle for examining these issues, as well as to meet students' needs. The primary focus of the research was on the experiences of the Student Helpers who staffed the Nightline and on the issues presented by their clients. The research method was one of co-operative inquiry.Through the training of Student Helpers and implementation of this service, insight was gained into the nature of students' problems. Consequently, it was possible to produce a taxonomy of student needs. A distinction was drawn between problems relating to 'inter-individual' (individual and academic) life and 'intra-personal' (personal and academic) life, with a course of action relating to each problem area being described as short or long-term. This taxonomy was used to analyse the calls received by the Nightline. Results indicate that most clients were seeking short term solutions to problems relating to 'intra-personal - personal life'. The experiences and problems of Students Helpers were assessed predominantly through the use of questionnaires and focus groups. An unexpected and pleasing outcome from this research was that in providing a peer counselling service, Student Helpers had facilitated their own personal growth. In most respects, their needs paralleled those of the clients they were trying to help.A central tenet of this thesis is that the provision of academic support alone is not sufficient to ensure academic success. The research suggests that greater consideration should be given to opportunities for personal development programs as part of the curriculum in higher education.